Computer-based Language Testing: C-Test vs. Rapid Profile

Term Paper, 2006

14 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1 Introduction

2 Language Testing: Requirements, Types and Properties
2.1. Test requirements
2.2. Types of tests
2.3. Test properties

3 The C-Test
3.1. What is a C-Test?
3.2. The theory behind it

4 Rapid Profile
4.1. What is Rapid Profile?
4.2. The theory behind it

5 C-Test vs. Rapid Profile

6 Conclusion

7 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Testing is an important part of language teaching. Tests can be used to place students in courses according to their knowledge, to diagnose their strengths and weaknesses, to identify their proficiency etc. There are many theories about what tests should analyse and how they should be taken. Depending on the relevance of the results, tests need to be more or less accurate. Furthermore, they should have a beneficial backwash on teaching. It is thus at least as important to examine testing itself as it is to look at teaching methods.

With the spread of computers in the last decades, there have been many attempts to develop computer-based language tests examining communicative ability. This work will concentrate on two of them: the C-Test and Rapid Profile. First, I will give an overview of the types of tests and introduce the basic properties any test should have. I will then present the C-Test and Rapid Profile and the theories behind them, in order to be able to compare them.

2 Language Testing: Requirements, Types and Properties

2.1. Test requirements

In order for a test to be accurate, there are two principles that need to be taken into consideration: reliability and validity. Reliability refers to the consistency of the test. Even if the results will never be exactly the same because of human inconsistency they should be as similar as possible. Validity describes in how far the test fulfils its purpose. This principle is divided into several subcategories: concurrent validity, or the extent to which the results of a test correlate with those of another one; predictive validity, the extent to which the outcome of a test predicts the performance in a future situation; face validity, if a test mirrors what it is testing; content validity, if a test examines a representative sample of what was taught; construct validity, the extent to which the test bases on a theory of language acquisition, and finally consequential validity, or the backwash expected from a test.

2.2. Types of tests

Language tests can be divided into several types according to their purpose. Proficiency tests judge the ability of communication in a foreign language. They can be designed according to the purpose for which the knowledge is needed, or they can be general. These tests are not based on any specific courses.

Achievement tests relate to courses taken before the testing. They can be relatively informal progress achievement tests, or final achievement tests taken at the end of a course. The latter can be based either on the syllabus content, covering the material the students have dealt with in class, or on the objectives of the course.

Diagnostic tests are designed to analyse students’ strengths and weaknesses. However, whereas they are sufficient for testing basic skills they are not reliable on complex structures.

Placement tests are used to allocate students to different levels according to their competence. To ensure their accuracy they need to be designed especially for particular situations.

2.3. Test properties

There are different ways of testing depending on the requirements. Testing can be direct or indirect, discrete point or integrative, norm-referenced or criterion-referenced, objective or subjective, or computer adaptive.

Direct tests examine the performance of a specific skill (i.e. reading, writing etc.) measuring only one ability. Indirect tests measure a number of abilities that underlie the skills asked for.

Discrete point tests analyse individual grammatical items or structures, normally indirectly. Integrative tests are usually direct; this kind of test presupposes the knowledge of an infinite number of language elements.

Criterion-referenced testing provides information about a student’s ability to fulfil a task; the result is a pass or a fail. Norm-referenced tests do not measure competence, but they reflect whether one student is better or worse than others by comparing their performances.

Tests are called objective if their results are unambiguous, e.g. in multiple choice tests. If the results vary depending on the testers’ judgement the testing is said to be subjective.

Unlike the majority of paper and pencil tests, computer adaptive tests adjust to the learners’ abilities. Depending on whether the test subjects answer the first question (of average difficulty) correctly or not, the next questions will be easier or more difficult.

3 The C-Test

3.1. What is a C-Test?

The C-Test belongs to the category of psycholinguistic-sociolinguistic tests[1]. It is an integrative, indirect and objective testing method basing on a theory of language. According to the developers, it is reliable and valid way to measure the general proficiency in the target language but it does not give evidence of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. C-Tests can be used as placement tests, to compare students or the success of different teaching methods, or even as an objective final exam. Since they are an easy and economical form of testing there are C-Tests for a large number of languages.

The test consists of five or six independent texts starting with the easiest one. These texts differ according to the learners’ abilities and age. After a complete introductory sentence giving contextual information, every second word in the next sentences is “damaged” i.e. the second half of the word is deleted[2]. The last sentence is left undamaged. In every text there are twenty to twenty-five deletions which the candidates need to fill in in five minutes. Every blank gives one point, spelling errors being counted as mistakes. The result is a single number which can be interpreted as either norm- or criterion-referenced.


[1] Raatz, Ulrich, Klein-Braley, Christine. “Introduction to language testing and to C-Tests” in University Language Testing and the C-Test. Eds. James A. Coleman, Rüdiger Grotjahn, Ulrich Raatz. Bochum: AKS-Verlag, 2002. 75-91.

[2] Words consisting of one letter, numbers and proper names remain undamaged.

Excerpt out of 14 pages


Computer-based Language Testing: C-Test vs. Rapid Profile
University of Paderborn
Einführung in die Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien: Electronic Tools and Resources for Linguists
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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419 KB
Computer-based, Language, Testing, C-Test, Rapid, Profile, Einführung, Informations-, Kommunikationstechnologien, Electronic, Tools, Resources, Linguists
Quote paper
Ana Colton-Sonnenberg (Author), 2006, Computer-based Language Testing: C-Test vs. Rapid Profile, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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